My friend Jan Dewing, who has died aged 61 of ovarian cancer, was the Sue Pembrey chair in nursing and director of the Centre for Person-centred Practice Research at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, where she was also head of the university’s graduate research school.
Jan was a leading scholar in person-centred practice, with a particular focus on care services for people living with dementia; she worked with health and social care teams to ensure care was delivered in a way that respected who the person was and not according to a clinical diagnosis. This approach had been developed by Tom Kitwood in the late 1980s and Jan built on, challenged and extended this work. She also brought this kind of thinking to wider health services.
She published extensively and was editor-in-chief of the journal Nursing Philosophy from 2020 and the founding editor (2011-19) of The International Practice Development Journal, reflecting her passion for changing healthcare cultures and challenging the status quo.
Born in Gateshead, to Joan (nee Burnside), a tailoress, and John, a diesel fitter for British Rail, Jan was educated at Heathfield senior school and qualified as a nurse from Gateshead School of Nursing in 1982. She received a BSc from the Open University (1992), a master’s in nursing from University of Wales (1993) and a PhD from Manchester University (2007) as well as an MA in English literature and film from Harvard University in 2013.
Jan held a variety of clinical and academic positions throughout her career. She worked first as a coronary care nurse, in Gateshead and Oxford, and then moved into disability services in Oxfordshire as a senior nurse manager. From 1990 she held an associated lectureship at Oxford Brookes University, and was hospital manager at Burford Community hospital. There she carried forward the work of the Nursing Development Unit, for which the hospital had an international reputation and, with me, co-led the extension of this work across all 11 community hospitals in Oxfordshire.
In 2002 she became a consultant nurse in therapeutic nursing and rehabilitation at Milton Keynes, and from 2004 to 2006 was a senior fellow at the Royal College of Nursing Institute, focused on work-based learning, practice development and research with older people and people living with dementia. She was professor of person-centred research and practice development at Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, from 2010, before taking up the professorship in Edinburgh in 2015.
Anyone who encountered Jan came to know that nothing would be left to chance, and everything was open to question and debate. She was aware that many people struggled with being challenged by her, but she saw it as her role as an educator, critical thinker and friend to ensure that “established truths” were not allowed to become dominant dogma.
Jan had many colleagues and friends around the world, and was devoted to her dog, Billie. She had an infectious sense of humour and a passion for northern soul.
She is survived by her partner, Jane, her brothers, John, Tom and Keith, her sister, Margaret, two nieces, and six nephews, and two great-nephews and two great-nieces.